Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Canon 50D’

One of the coolest turtles in our area is the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina), also known as the Woodland Box Turtle. Unlike many turtles, this one spends most of its time on land rather than in the water. I spotted this beauty, which is probably a male,  last weekend at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it was slowly making its way across a trail—males generally have red eyes and the females have brown eyes.

As I was doing a little research, I discovered that the Eastern Box Turtle is the official state reptile of North Carolina and Tennessee. Who even knew that states had official reptiles? According to an article in ncpedia.org, the General Assembly of 1979 designated the Eastern Box Turtle as the official State Reptile for North Carolina. Given that this was agreed in a legislative body, debates were held about the relative merits of this reptile versus other potential candidates.

I couldn’t help but laugh as I read the words of the preamble to the legislative bill that cited a variety of reasons why the box turtle was selected:

“Whereas, the turtle is a most useful creature who serves to control harmful and
pestiferous insects, and acts as one of nature’s clean-up crew, helping to preserve the purity and
beauty of our waters; and

Whereas, the turtle is derided by some who have missed the finer things of life, but
in some species has provided food that is a gourmet’s delight; and

Whereas, the turtle, which at a superficial glance appears to be a mundane and
uninteresting creature, is actually a most fascinating creature, ranging from species well
adapted to modern conditions to species which have existed virtually unchanged since
prehistoric times; and

Whereas, the turtle watches undisturbed as countless generations of faster hares run
by to quick oblivion, and is thus a model of patience for mankind, and a symbol of this State’s
unrelenting pursuit of great and lofty goals; and

Whereas, the woodlands, marshes, and inland and coastal waters of North Carolina
are the abode of many species of turtles; Now, therefore. . .”

As an interesting sidenote, Virginia, the state in which I live, has twice considered adopting this turtle as the state’s official reptile, but rejected the legislative proposals in 1999 and 2009. A posting on nbcwashington.com reported that during discussions in 2009, one delegate asked why Virginia would make an official emblem of an animal that retreats into its shell when frightened and dies by the thousands crawling across roads and counterproposed that the rattlesnake be chosen. The fatal blow, according to the posting, might have been the disclosure that the Latin name for the Eastern Box Turtle—Terrapene carolina carolina—implied too close a relation to a Virginia regional rival.

Eastern Box Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

As I turned the corner of a trail at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Monday, I spotted a large bird perched high in a tree. It didn’t immediately fly away, so I figured it wasn’t an eagle. Zooming in, I realized I was wrong—it was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) facing in the opposite direction.

I got lots of photos of the back of the eagle’s head, but decided that I wouldn’t share any of them. I knew that eventually the eagle would turn its head and tried to get ready. I snapped off a few photos, including the first one below, when the eagle turned its head and surveyed the area.

I don’t know if it was the noise of the shutter or if it detected motion, but the eagle spotted me and I was able to capture the second shot as it was preparing to take flight. I was thrilled, because this was the closest encounter that I had had with a bald eagle in a long time.

I continued down the trail and a short while later made a turn onto another trail. As I glanced to my left, I saw a perched eagle. I don’t know if it was the same one that I had just observed, but I managed to snap off a few more shots, including the third shot below. I like the way that I was able to capture a bit of the feel of autumn with the red leaves.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When I spotted this bird on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it was facing away from me and I couldn’t immediately identify it. It had fluffed up its feathers and appeared to be basking in the sunlight.

When it finally turned its head slightly, I caught a glimpse of its red eyes and realized that it was probably an Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus). All of the other times that I have seen towhees in the past, they have been foraging in the cluttered undergrowth, so it was a real treat to see one more or less in the open. As a bonus, the light coming from the left helped to illuminate some of the details of the bird’s beautiful feathers and the bird’s pose is quite different from that of a typical perched bird .

Eastern Towhee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When I heard loud singing coming from the top of a tree, I glanced up and saw a shape that reminded me of a mockingbird. Looking more closely, I realized that the colors looked more like those of a female Red-winged Blackbird, but the shape of the body and behavior were not those of a blackbird. Although I was pretty far away, I noticed that the bird had startlingly light-colored eyes. What was this bird?

Thanks to its physical characteristics, it was not hard to locate this bird in my identification book when I got home—it is a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum).  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Brown Thrashers are exuberant singers, with one of the largest repertoires of any North American songbird.” The same article notes that some early naturalists thought that the Brown Thrasher’s musical abilities are underappreciated, as compared with the mockingbird, which has received greater acclaim. “Brown Thrasher”  somehow sounds to me like it should be associated more with a heavy metal band than with this pretty bird. Maybe this bird needs a better marketing strategy and a public relations campaign.

The sky was heavily overcast the day I took these shots. Normally I don’t like the look of the washed-out skies, but in this case I really like the effect. One of my Facebook viewers commented that it made the photo that I posted (the first one below) look like an Audubon print.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the only views I have gotten of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) have been of them flying away from me. Yesterday I got lucky and caught a glimpse through the foliage of one sitting in a distant tree in what appears to be a nest. Earlier this year, several roads in the refuge were closed after two eaglets were born. I don’t know if this was the nesting site, but suspect it might have been.

I was a long way away, but had a small visual tunnel through the trees that gave me a mostly unobstructed view of the eagle. I tried to move slowly, although I figured that the eagle was unaware of my presence. Apparently I underestimated the sharpness of the eagle’s vision, because it took off from the nest not long after I began shooting.

As I have said in the past, however, any day that I am able to see and photograph a Bald Eagle is a wonderful day.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I spent much of my time Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge scanning the trees for birds. On one of the rare moments when I was looking down, I ended up looking into the eyes of what appears to be a Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon).

Although it may look like I was dangerously close to this snake, I took these shots with my Tamron 150-600mm lens, which has a minimum focusing distance of almost 9 feet (274 cm). Northern Watersnakes are not poisonous, but I have been told that their bites can be very painful and that the snakes inject an anti-coagulant when they bite, so wounds tend to bleed profusely.

I particularly like the way that I was able to capture some of the details of the snake, including its scales and its head. If you look closely, you can even see a miniature landscape in the eyes of the snake.

UPDATE: One of the viewers on my Facebook page commented that this looks more like an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) than a Northern Watersnake. I am hoping to get some clarification on the species of this snake and would welcome the views of any readers with expertise in this area.

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

It was cool, wet, and a little breezy yesterday, not exactly a perfect day for photography, but I made a trip anyways to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  My persistence was rewarded when I was able to capture some images of several cute little Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata).

When it comes to warblers, I generally have two big problems. Warblers seem to like to perch in the center of clusters of branches and it is often virtually impossible to get unobstructed shots of them. Even if I am able to get a clear shot, I am faced with the equally daunting challenge of identifying the bird. There appear to be a large number of warblers with similar patterns and colors and there are innumerable variations based on season, age, gender, and region.

I was pretty confident that the birds in these images were Yellow-rumped Warblers, but for reassurance I checked with some experts on a Facebook birding forum. One of them humorously noted that this bird is often informally referred to as “Butterbutt.”

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »